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Year 2 in Review (the 2nd six months)

Well, with all of this Alabama fun tossed with some cold germs, not much work on the year 2 slideshow has been had. The addition of a DSLR camera during our first year on the road yielded amazing photo memories of our travels and the kids’ growing years. However, the ability to snap six shots in as many seconds multiplies the work of choosing photos for said slideshow. It’s also a very emotional tumultuous process as I relive experiences and feel the presence of the family and friends with whom we shared them.

Anywho- here’s the map of the second six months of our second year! Yes, it’s just too much to even put on one map.

Click here to view the map in a browser and check out the highlights of our stops along the way.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State- Part 2

From Santa Barbara, we had a lovely driving day through farm country… until we got near our RV park destination where we came upon agri-business farms- one after another with loads of cows in pens lying in muck and eating grain out of troughs.  No grass in sight.  No room (or reason) to roam.  Given our recent focus on paleo eating and continued desire to eat local and organic, this was eye opening for the kids.  I’ll get into food in another post but the visual of this was a great opportunity to talk about our choice to eat meat and where we get it and why.

We stayed at Sun N Fun RV Park in Tulare, CA because of its proximity to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and decreased cost with our Passport America membership.  There isn’t a whole lot to the RV park but it made a nice place to stay- safe, quiet, near enough to stores that we needed, a picturesque drive to Sequoia NP, and a tiny little pool where we spent some time each afternoon that we were there.

I couldn’t take enough photos in Sequoia NP to satisfy my desire to capture its beauty.  The first day we were there, the kids picked up their Junior Ranger workbooks at the Visitors’ Center and worked on them there a bit with the information provided.  Then we proceeded into the park from about 1,000 feet of elevation to 6,000 to see the Sequoia trees.  It was interesting to note the distinct differences in the elevation zones.  Snow!  The zone with the sequoias had snow!  I think the kids were more excited about the snow than the trees.  Maybe we played them up too much…  Oh well, at least there was snow.  It was funny (growing up in New England) to see our kids look like Bambi on ice walking on snow.  We gave them a few tips.  The trees are extraordinary.  They are the biggest trees in the world by volume (not the tallest).  The diameter of the largest (General Sherman) is over 36 feet at the base and the massive girth continues to the top.  We came prepared with jackets but it was still pretty cold so, after walking the General Sherman Trail (very crowded- it was Good Friday) and taking turns with other tourists for photo ops, we headed back down the mountain. 
General Sherman
The Kids Stand in a Sequoia Fire Scar
The kids worked on their Junior Ranger books at home and we went back out to the park on Monday for hiking, exploring, on-site Junior Ranger work, and their swearing in back at the Visitor Center.  🙂

Tunnel Rock

Waiting for a free RV spot at the Thousand Trails park near Yosemite National Park, we stayed 10 days in Tulare.  It was a relaxing time for decompression after so much busy Legoland/family time/etc. since leaving Tucson.  The drive to Yosemite was thrilling as a passenger, nervewracking (I’m told) as the driver- twisting and turning up, down, and around the sides of mountains with long sprays of snow-melt waterfalls visible on the opposite mountainside.  Sadie lost her lunch into our stock pot and we pulled over one other time to put out two random rest area fires.  Who starts fires (and leaves them burning) at a California turnoff?
Our campsite at Yosemite Valley
I considered that maybe Yosemite wouldn’t live up to the hype.  We’d been hearing about this national park for… ever.  It’s so huge.  Maybe we’d see the ‘wrong’ stuff and miss out on the greatness.  The Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails is located 5 miles from the entrance to the park.  5 miles.  That is fantastic.  From the main entrance, it’s 24 miles to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center.  And, oh, what a 24 miles it is – views of Half Dome, 2 feet of snow on the ground, driving directly under the base of Bridal Veil Falls, and right next to El Capitan.  The parking area is about 1/4 mile flat walk to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center (there are others but they were closed this early in the season).  We talked with a Ranger who gave the kids their Junior Ranger worksheet (much less involved here in the way of puzzles, word finds, etc. This one focused on experiential learning which worked out well so we could really make the most of our time in the park.) and talked with us about available hikes.  The kids requested a ‘rugged’ hike (sweet!) so we headed off for Upper Yosemite Falls.  Rugged, indeed.  It was about 4 miles roundtrip with a 2,600 foot elevation gain and well worth it.  We spotted a bobcat during our hike!  After viewing the upper falls, we were pointed to a little offshoot of the trail that took us down to a breathtaking view of the upper, middle, and lower falls.  Wow.  Elijah talked most of the way down about how eating paleo has made a tremendous difference in his wind, strength, and endurance.  Huh.  OK.  The hike wore us all out and the descent took its tolls on Chris’ knees.  The kids were intent on getting back to the Visitors’ Center before they closed to turn in their work for their badges.  This was the first park that had a sign-in book.  The kids liked that and were taken aback by the standing ovation preceeded by an announcement of their achievement.  It’s a little different everywhere we go!

Sarah and Chris hiking Upper Falls

Chris’ knees took a few days to be up to extended walking- never mind hiking.  Our second day in the park was lower key and it felt great to already have Upper Falls under our belts and to just meander around the park.  We walked up under Bridal Veil Falls (wet, wet, wet!), picnicked under El Cap, and walked the paved path to the base of Lower Falls.  While much of the park was closed, we felt like we’d landed in one of the most awe-inspiring, spirit-filling places on earth.  The waterfalls flowed fully and loudly with snow melting in ribbons off the tops of the mountains.

Upper Falls

The excitement doesn’t stop…. We were on our way to San Francisco! Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

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California’s a Big State! (Part 1)

So now I’m back-blogging (as in- still behind where we are right now…).  Right now we’re in northern California but we started down at the ‘bottom.’  As you can imagine, there’s a lot to catch up on.  But I would feel remiss if I didn’t try.  There has already been so much that I didn’t record here of our east cost travels that I’ve got to catch up on these last few months since Tucson.

We’ve been in California since March 16th (my birthday).  The stars (or logistics) aligned for us to travel on my birthday.  Ah, well.  The night before we left I made a coconut flour, double-decker death by chocolate paleo cake.  It was freakin’ fabulous.  We made our way to Jamul, CA – just outside of San Diego.  Our drive took us from sunny, dry, hot Tucson where the vegetation makes every attempt to spear you to the rainy, lush, green countryside of southern California and let me tell you how great it is to end a rainy travel day with a huge chocolate cake topped with fresh strawberries (and candles)…

Elijah (and more recently Sadie) had been waiting for this stop for a long time.  Legoland!  We were situated in a rainy, woodsy campground.  The lush green, mountainous area made for beautiful driving to and from our temporary home.  We spent two days in Legoland.  It was- eh.  My theme park bar is set high by Disney World.  Say what you will, Disney is a plugged in, full on enjoyable experience.  I thought Legoland was seriously overpriced.  Disney ticket prices for a Lego Six Flagesque experience.  We were delighted to get the hook-up with information about homeschool day prices.  We ended up saving more than half and that made it all better for me.  The kids LOVED it.  It’s a theme park.  And there are Legos.  Elijah participated in the Lego Mindstorms (robotics) class and (despite not being overly thrilled about taking time away from his theme park experience) thought it was awesome and was glad he went.  It entailed programming robots to navigate a course and perform varied functions to complete an assignment.  The best part of Legoland for everyone was the gift shop.  Holy moly, that is a seriously comprehensive gift shop.

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My oldest brother lives in California.  We stopped through for a delicious dinner and renewed connection and ended up spending the night and making another date for our families to spend more time together.  We are 7 years apart and were always in very different parts of our lives.  It seems we’ve found common ground now as adults with young children pursuing our personal and familial passions with vigor.  Man, that was fun.  It warms my heart to hear my kids talk about their cool aunt and uncle and their super-fun ‘new’ cousins.  My favorite memory?  Hiking in the Cleveland (not in Ohio) National Forest with my brother in his family.  I feel closer to him now than ever.  I’ve committed myself to giving more attention to family connections.  I’ve made this (private) commitment before but this time feels different- it’s out of excitement rather than obligation.  But it’s tricky with poor cell signals and sketchy internet so the blog is my love letter to y’all until we hear each other’s voices again.

Speaking of brothers, Chris has one in California, too!  Jeesh – for east coast kids, we’ve got a lot of family on the west coast.  Back to one of my favorite RV park/campgrounds situated on a horse ranch in the Padre National Park mountains to the east of Santa Barbara (with the Pacific Ocean to the west).  Here we spent two weeks with Chris’ brother and 4 year-old niece.  There’s just something about cousins.  I’m so happy that our kids get to see theirs more regularly than they would if we were living in a stationary home.  The cost of four plane tickets, west and east coast family, and time off from a facetime job made it very difficult.  One of the biggest reasons our kids like to travel is that they get to see family much more frequently.  Park play, delicious restaurants that could accomodate our paleo nutritional choices, an afternoon at the Ty Warner Sea Center with Emma, a hike with spectacular views of Santa Barbara, a hike to another waterfall right from the door of our RV, a horseback trail ride for Sadie and I, and precious time just ‘being’ with family.  Well, we didn’t spend much time in the RV park but we did love our time in Santa Barbara.

OK- well that gets us to central California.  I’m out of breath and will catch up on the rest soon!  One of my toughest parts of blogging is calling a post ‘done’ and pressing ‘publish’ so I must type and publish all in one hit!

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in California, Family, Travel log

 

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Butterflies!

Last Christmas, Sadie wanted and received one of those insect kits to raise butterflies.  We’ve been so busy traveling and visiting that we just haven’t used the voucher to order the larvae and start the process.  She recently pulled the box out of her cubby and it seemed the perfect time.  So we went to www.insectlore.com and used the voucher from our box to order the larvae.  We paid only shipping because the kit included the voucher but you can order and pay for a variety of insects there without the kits as well.  Sure enough, 2 days later we received 5 little black caterpillar-looking larvae.

They grew like mad!  It seemed everytime we walked by their little cup, they were significantly bigger to the point that they ended up greenish, brownish, fat, fuzzy caterpillars.  The cup had tiny air holes and included the food they needed to get to their chrysalid phase so we didn’t do anything but watch for about a week.  They made silk strands criss cross the cup and walked around on them and one day one of them attached its rear end to the paper lid liner of the cup.  The other four promptly followed.  That was about a week ago.  We watched them change from soft and squishy looking to covered in hard, dry casings that had iridescent gold spots on them.  According to the instructions, we removed the paper lid liner from the cup and safety pinned it to the lower inside edge of the net butterfly house.  In the process, one of the chrysalids fell off.  Yikes!  I was able to gently rub the silk remaining on the top against the cup and it stuck back on.
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Yesterday I got a call while I was out from Chris.  “We have a butterfly!”  Indeed, we do.  And it is a beautiful miracle of nature!  So awesome.
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Sadie picked the heads off of two of her potted petunias, mixed the sugar water, and dropped a few droplets on the petals.  We all watched this morning as our butterfly friend extended its proboscis and drank the sweet mixture.  It was visibly disturbed by our hands, our presence, and household noises.  Before our bumpy drive to Austin this morning, we decided to set this one free.

We have four other chrysalids remaining.  In the process, the same chrysalid that had come detached before fell again.  We picked it up and examined it and could see the butterfly wings inside!!!  This time it would not stick back on.  I took a piece of dental floss and tied it to the silk hanging off and tied the other end to the strap on the top of the net house then zipped the zipper closed over it.
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Guess what?!  As I’m typing this post, that butterfly has emerged! Phew. I was kind of worried about that guy.

We are all excited to observe other insects from http://www.insectlore.com. Having read just about everything about butterflies we have gotten our hands on, it’s positively awesome to watch their transition first hand. I think any other observations may have to wait until spring weather… The nights are getting chilly here in Texas already!

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Projects

 

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We Are What We Eat (aka- Eating well on the road)

We’re accruing a list of frequently asked questions.  One of these has been coming up relatively often lately as people dig a little deeper into how we are living full time on the road.  People want to know- what do we eat?  First, I think there is a pretty common misconception that living in an RV is like camping.  When we embarked on this lifestyle, it was with all of the comforts we considered necessary in mind.  We were all very clear that this should in no way ever feel like we were sacrificing in some way.  And I can safely say (we talk about this regularly) that everyone feels completely satisfied and comfortable with the RV life.  We have a perfectly regular living quarters with all of the regular areas- just laid out a little differently and squashed into a smaller space.

As far as the kitchen goes, our food knowledge, planning, preparing, and consumption is always changing and improving with our awareness.  And, while I lack the vast counter space of our suburban dwelling, the way that I consider and prepare food has not ever back-stepped with our change in living quarters.  In fact, we’ve become even healthier!  I believe in whole ingredients.  I believe in preparing food from ingredients that are recognizable and basic.  I was recently asked where I keep all of my boxed and canned pantry items in the RV and I was confused for a moment.  I have only the occasional organic jarred pasta/pizza sauce and a box or two of Annie’s organic macaroni and cheese.  Why would these require lots of space?

The misconception is that cooking from basic ingredients requires more space.  It doesn’t.  In fact, it requires less… and less money, too.  We eat only organic (and local if we can help it) produce and choose the most organic and basic of other ingredients as well.  It is amazing to me to compare shopping carts with those who are buying boxed, frozen, canned, etc. foods.  Their carts are overflowing and their receipts are frightening!  I can make so many different things with the ingredients that we buy and they are so satisfying that my smaller cart of groceries actually amounts to a much more creative, frugal, and healthy lifestyle.

I think I’ll start sharing some of my favorite recipes here.  Please include yours or links to them in the comments section!  I’m always looking to try new things as is Sadie – my 6 year-old sidekick in the kitchen.

I suppose I should have started with some amazing entree with lots of local green stuff but, since the Patriots lost tonight and we are in mourning, I will offer up one of our favorite breakfast items that served as comfort food for us tonight:

Gingerbread Pancakes – Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I alter every recipe I come across.  I use grapeseed oil in place of vegetable and reconstituted goat’s milk in lieu of cow’s (I have also used rice milk with success). For a more crepe-like pancake (and for vegan alteration), we’ve used 1 tbsp of milled blueberry flaxseed with 3 tbsps water instead of the egg. Delicious!
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To save time, I will often make extra of the dishes I make- hot dishes serve well for lunch the next day. In this case, I always make a second batch of the dry mix to put in the pantry for another day when I will just have to whip up the wet mix, combine, pour, and flip!
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Food, RV

 

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Dashboard Confessional

This has been such a time of tremendous shift in our lives.  I ‘came out’ on my Humans Being podcast a little while back about our plan to take the Clan on the road in an RV to minimize our expenses, free Chris to pursue his passions and spend more time with us, and to see as much of the world as possible.  This has been something we have discussed and pondered and thought of as a retirement plan or a ‘someday’.  When we embraced unschooling, we thought there could be no better way to live a connected life while seeing and getting to know the amazing, beautiful, quirky, historic, strange, and mysterious places and people of the world.  And yet we still could not think of a way that it could become reality.  This was our block, not reality.  As this was our dream, information came to us in fits and spurts and, the more we realized it was a possibility, the more excited we became.  The more excited, the more we sought, dreamt, and learned.

Did you know there are a great many families living ‘on the road’?  Here are a couple of sites to get started:

www.familiesontheroad.com

www.nurvers.com

There have been many considerations along the way and the decision has not been without deep analysis, excitement, anxiety, investigation, and re-analysis. 

– what will we do with the house?  And all of our STUFF? (I love what George Carlin had to say about STUFF.)

– what about the kids’ friends?  Nuther post, nuther time….

– what about financial income?  Ditto…

– where will we go?  Long list- the question is: where will we go in what order?

– how long will we travel?  However long it feels good!

– what if we decide it’s not for us?  Then we’ll set up a homestead again.

The questions we have been asked and have asked ourselves surface, are addressed, and re-surface only to meet with new knowledge and tweak the plan or perspective.   Aside from my open Humans Being discussion, Facebook and Twitter friends have seen only a few mentions of the plan and its unfoldings.  As we become more comfortable, confident, and knowledgable about our decision, it is much easier to disclose our intentions and the loose makings of a plan with others.  Come to think of it, this is the same process we encountered with unschooling- our guarded, thrilling secret gradually became exciting to share as we gained confidence in our choice and explored philosophy and practice.

Our house has sold once already but, with the drop in housing prices and consumer lending being curtailed to a fault, the appraisal on our house did not match the sale price (not by a mile).  While we agreed to sell short of what we (and both real estate agents) considered fair market value, the buyers became concerned and felt that this might be a message from on high (yes, we live in the Bible belt) that they should not go through with the purchase.  Even with our positive outlook and firm belief that we attract everything that we need at any given time (Law of Attraction), we were disheartened.  The plan at the time was to sell the house, quickly purchase an RV, move in, hold an estate sale for the remaining STUFF, sign closing papers, and be off.

After becoming inspired by the Janssens’ RV renovations, we decided that it will be better to locate and purchase an RV, perform any changes/overhauls/additions prior to move-in, move in, hold an estate sale, and continue with the house on the market throughout the deal.  Living in a house that is on the market is quite difficult.  I find myself always on edge wondering how quickly I could clean the house if we were called for a showing.  It’s not a fun way to live.

After many weeks of searching for the perfect RV in person and online, making offers not accepted, talking with sleezy southern RV salesman (excluding two who were absolutely helpful and lovely), haggling, researching, reading, and searching again, we have finally found what we believe to be our future home on the road.  I will post all the details once it passes all inspections and is, indeed, ours.

The test drive was scheduled and we were on our way to the dealership when dark, Texan clouds rolled in.  As the rain was light, the salesperson (loveliest and most knowledgeable of all and rightfully earning our business) approved the test drive and brought the RV to a location deemed a good practice area where he and Chris switched seats.  About this time the rain started coming down more heavily.  A short in the wire supplying the windshield wipers rendered them useless.  Downpour.  Construction zone.  Right turn onto a two-lane road with no shoulder.  Low-hanging branches.  Mental hyperventilation.  Picturing white light and trying to conjure feelings of confidence and calm.  Envisioning the RV with our colors, photos, alterations, and our energy all around.  Thinking of all the places we will see and people we will meet as we travel North America in our home. 

We made it home safely.  I am affirmed that Chris was able to drive this big rig in some serious weather with minimal anxiety and we are now clear what type of weather is optimal for RV travel- the clear kind.

I am excited to share this news and we are looking forward to the RV mechanic inspection going through with a clean bill of health and the house selling smoothly.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2010 in RV, Uncategorized

 

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Wild Week of Wagners

This week has been a whirlwind.  Tara and Justin Wagner and their son, Zeb, have been in DFW for the week and we have just been soaking them up!  Instant friendships and deep connections were had by all.  The knowing smiles and wisdom had in their short time on the road in their RV has inspired and comforted us.  They even shared some of it on a Humans Being podcast for all to enjoy!  For those of you still unaware of the Clan of Parent’s not-so-secret plan to travel the country by RV, you may want to listen to this one first.

The kids all hit it off in a big way with swimming, Legos, ball playing, wiggle car-ing, hooping, and many other activities during our visits.  Chris and Justin broke off for some chatting of their own- both technical and philosophical- over a beer or two.  Dads are coming together to support one another in lives fueled on joy, passionate pursuits, creativity, and… veggie oil! 

Sara, Matt, Bella, and Lucy Janssen also made their way to DFW this week!  We all got together for a couple of potluck dinners (which I highly recommend for the ease and yummy variety!), some lively discussion, and hooping! 

 

Hallie Collett Garcia assists Elijah with taping his handmade hoop.

We made our own hoops and began learning to hoop dance.  This is a whole separate post which I will share soon so stay tuned!

Parting was, indeed, such sweet sorrow.  I wanted to hug too tightly and for too long.  Knowing that our paths in the RVs are undetermined and ever-flowing, I didn’t want to let go.  Is it so different when we bid farewell to those we know in ‘stick’ homes?  Because we know their specific location, does it make us miss them less?  Does it make it easier to let go?  It felt so.  And yet, I felt a thrill.  “Come see us this summer in Louisiana!” says Tara.  And we could…

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2010 in RV

 

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